MACBETH by William Shakespeare, directed by Shawn Campbell, with Campbell, Jeff Douglas, Stephanie Belding, Aaron Berg, Diana Donnelly, Rick Hughes and Camille Stubel. Presented by the Mercury Zoo Project at Khrome (18 Sackville). Runs to December 9, Wednesday-Saturday 8 pm. $10. 894-8933. Rating: NNN
You don't need lots of money, experience or even the full text to put on a decent performance of Macbeth. That's clear from the Mercury Zoo Project's atmospheric, stripped-down version of the Scottish play.Oozing energy and cool, the 90-minute version is being performed at Khrome, a converted loft space in the east end. The space is used well, with the audience on the same level and surrounding the players, so the many blackouts -- signifying the appearance of the witches, the murder of Duncan -- create a sense of menace and fear. In the production's best scene, the narrow playing area becomes a long dinner table where Banquo makes his posthumous appearance. Creepy.
There are other smart touches, like Camille Stubel's bravura take on the three witches, and the decision to have one actor play both Duncan's and Macduff's sons. What the show lacks is firm enough direction to tie the parts together and establish a consistent tone.
The heavily truncated text makes the show hurtle along, and the performers, many of them recent National Theatre School grads, speak their lines confidently but without much subtext. The words never have time to sink in. Macbeth's final soliloquy is so unmoving it's almost funny. Diana Donnelly's Lady M, though memorable, is pitched too high from the start. She could also turn down the volume -- we're not at the Royal Alex.
At its best, this production shows that a little imagination and lots of young energy can go a long way. I hope they go further next time.